Happy Songs from Rattlesnake Gulch

Happy Songs from Rattlesnake Gulch

by Joe Ely
     
 

The title is an optimistic if not downright misleading description of Joe Ely's first album since his 2003 masterpiece, Streets of Sin. Given that all but one song (the funked-up, horn-driven "Firewater," courtesy Ely's Flatlanders compadre Butch Hancock) is written by Ely himself, you expect some slightly twisted songs, and ElySee more details below

Overview

The title is an optimistic if not downright misleading description of Joe Ely's first album since his 2003 masterpiece, Streets of Sin. Given that all but one song (the funked-up, horn-driven "Firewater," courtesy Ely's Flatlanders compadre Butch Hancock) is written by Ely himself, you expect some slightly twisted songs, and Ely delivers in spades. Whereas Streets of Sin cast a jaundiced, angry eye toward the state of the Union, Happy Songs from Rattlesnake Gulch finds Ely tracking a rogue's gallery of shady characters and reporting on their misadventures -- and his own. The man who once imagined himself hermanos with Billy the Kid here offers "Miss Bonnie and Mister Clyde," in which he finds himself stealing the former from the latter and getting away with both the girl and the money. Ominous, thumping drums, ringing electric guitar chords, and some furious wah-wah guitar solos suggests a less-than-happy ending. A bit of Bo Diddley drive is suggested in the herky-jerky rhythms of "Hard Luck Saint," a finely detailed overview of a rootless immigrant, while the churning, turgid "July Blues" is as purposely sluggish as the heat that stills even the most implacable impulses ("My clock don't tick / And my rock don't rock"). Recorded possibly over a period of years, and featuring 15 other musicians in total, Happy Songs is, if not transcendent, a thoroughly engaging outing on all counts.

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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - William Ruhlmann
The week of his 60th birthday, Joe Ely released Happy Songs from Rattlesnake Gulch, his 12th album of new studio material in 30 years, to launch his own Rack 'Em Records label. A subtitle printed in three places on the packaging read "Pearls from the Vault, Volume XX," and that may have meant to suggest that the album was a collection of archival recordings, a suggestion that the multiple backup musicians appearing on different tracks (five guitarists, for instance, including Ely) might support, although there was no further information to illuminate the matter. In any case, the disc was Ely's first since 2003, and it consisted of previously unreleased tracks that had the feel of a diversified, coherent album. In fact, Happy Songs from Rattlesnake Gulch was a fairly typical Ely album full of guitar-driven, country-inflected blues-rock with a Southwestern sensibility, ranging from the neo-rockabilly of "Sue Me Sue" to the Cajun arrangement of "Little Blossom" and the electric blues of "July Blues." As usual, the locales were spread along the Gulf Coast and points west -- New Orleans, Evangeline, Shreveport, Dallas, Clovis -- and the characters in the story-songs included roughnecks, gamblers, and outlaws. In his most ambitious lyric, Ely created a sequel to his earlier "Me and Billy the Kid" with another fantasy set to the same tune, "Miss Bonnie and Mr. Clyde." He also touched on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in "Baby Needs a New Pair of Shoes." But the lyrics were less important than the feel and the performance, especially because Ely wrote nearly all the songs this time. The one exception, a de rigueur contribution from Butch Hancock, "Firewater" (the title song from his 1981 album), was so full of wordplay it showed up the rest of the disc. It may also be the only track on the album worthy of being included on a future Ely best-of, however. This is not one of his best albums, just a good one.

Product Details

Release Date:
02/06/2007
Label:
Cbuj Ent
UPC:
0750532974927
catalogNumber:
9749

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Tracks

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

Joe Ely   Primary Artist,Guitar,Keyboards,Vocals
David Holt   Electric Guitar
Mitch Watkins   Guitar
Little Johnny Fader   Percussion,Drums
David Grissom   Electric Guitar
Bradley Kopp   Electric Guitar
Donald Lindley   Drums
Davis McLarty   Drums
Jimmy Pettit   Bass Guitar
Reese Wynans   Keyboards
Glenn Fukunaga   Bass Guitar
Rafael Gayol   Drums
Gary Herman   Bass Guitar
John Mills   Horn
Rob Gjersoe   Electric Guitar
John H.R. Mills   Horn
Joel Guzman   Keyboards
Pat Murry   Horn

Technical Credits

Butch Hancock   Composer
Joe Ely   Composer,Producer,Audio Production,Cover Art
Little Johnny Fader   Engineer

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